Today there is an automatic washing machine in every home. It would seem that what is simpler: they laid dirty things, put the powder in bed, pressed a couple of buttons – and in an hour they got clean clothes. But it was not always so. A couple of centuries ago, washing was considered an incredibly hard job. We recall how pot-bellied barrels with blades turned into elegant household appliances.
About washing things, mankind has thought more than one millennium ago. Already in ancient Egypt, to describe this procedure, there was an appropriate hieroglyph – two legs in water. And Homer in the Odyssey mentioned washing ashore: with ordinary water and clay. Inventively approached the problem in the era of the Great Geographical Discoveries – seafarers tied clothes and threw them over the rope. While the ship was in motion, foam streams washed the dirt off the fabric. Those who never left the land, had to be more difficult: for many centuries the washerwomen were twisting, rinsing and squeezing things by hand.
From the barrel with the cross to the box with the wheels
To mechanize this exhausting work has long been trying to best minds. For example, in the records of the great Leonardo da Vinci, who lived in the XV century, in addition to sketches for "helicopters", "submarines" and other units that were futuristic at that time, a sketch of a washing machine was found. Paradoxically, the first such idea was realized not by the inventors, but by ordinary hard workers — farmers of Western Europe and American gold prospectors of the 1850s.
A wooden barrel was equipped with a crosspiece on a vertical axis. Soapy water was poured in there, linen was placed and the axis was manually rotated. Clothes rubbed and turned over thanks to the crosspiece. Especially savvy supplied devices with a drive belt or gear. And one enterprising prospector from California in the days of the "gold rush" even made a unit powered by a dozen drawn mules. So it was possible to wash 10-20 shirts at the same time.
To patent such things began in the middle of the XIX century. One of the first to register his invention was an American by the name of Moore. In 1856, he created a box on wheels, over which, by pressing a lever, a wooden frame moved. Clothes were put into the drawer and filled with soapy water, then wooden balls were poured in there. As the frame went up and down, the balls rolled over the fabric, providing an additional mechanical effect.
By 1870, a patent boom began in the States: the number of applications for unique laundry appliances exceeded two thousand. But most of the developments remained prototypes – the ideas proposed by the designers were often controversial. Much more fortunate William Blackstone. This Indiana inventor just wanted to make his wife happy for his birthday. Not only his wife appreciated his hand-washing machine, but also thousands of other American women – Blackstone set up a serial production in 1874. He sold the devices at a very affordable price – $ 2.5 per piece (for comparison, the same amount was worth three pairs of white shirts).
In Europe, too, did not waste time. The pioneer was the German brand Miele. Initially, this small family-owned company specialized in milk separators and churns. But in 1900, engineer Carl Mille visited up to the ingeniously simple idea. He modified the churn, adapting it for washing clothes. Instead of milk and cream, linen was placed in a wooden tub, water was poured in and the blades were rotated with the help of a manual drive. In the same year, Miele put on stream the production of such units. They enjoyed great success with housewives across Europe.
The revolution in the development of washing machines was the use of motors – first they worked on gasoline or a pair, and then on electricity. The first to think about the automation of labor Americans. In 1910, inventor Alva Fisher from Chicago patented an electric motor car, naming it Thor. However, only wealthy citizens could allow the novelty – electricity in the States was a luxury until the 1930s.
A wooden drum was placed in a partially galvanized Torah tank. At the expense of the motor, the drum made eight rotations either to one or the other. There were squeezing rollers. As befits an assembly, named after the Scandinavian god of thunder, he thundered during the work pretty. But the wash now does not require manual efforts! Only now the whole process had to be controlled – so that the fabric would not be wound on the rotating parts and the motor would not burn.
At the dawn of the 1920s, the washing machine industry in the United States was developing at a rapid pace: more than 1,400 companies produced equipment. Not surprisingly, over the decade, the price of "electric laundry" dropped from $ 150 to $ 60. True, few manufacturers thought about consumer safety and ergonomics – all transmission units were open. The situation began to change at the dawn of the 30s. Copper-lined wooden barrels have been replaced by enameled steel tanks. The dangerous parts of the mechanisms were thought to be covered with elegant plastic covers. At the same time, washing devices evolved rapidly – they began to equip them with timers, thermostats, electric pressure regulators and drain pumps.
Already in the late forties in the States released the world's first automatic washing machine. The miracle of the 1949th model vehicle had a software block that worked on punched cards. In Europe, the inventors also showed themselves: they looked at overseas innovations, interpreted and improved. So there was a machine that performs the full cycle of washing, including spinning. It happened in the early 50s through the efforts of Miele and other German companies.
In the second half of the 20th century, laundry facilities gradually became more efficient and functional. The stuffing changed significantly, mechanical units one by one went into the past, giving way to electronics as it spread. Of course, the look also changed: pot-bellied “tubs” turned into elegant home appliances with a futuristic design.
Perhaps one of the most notable achievements of modern washing machines is not so much the design of the case (since the 90s it has not changed much), but the software itself. We are used to the fact that the device has dozens of different modes and programs for different types of fabric. It is not easy to develop such software: the principle of so-called fuzzy logic is used to implement a variety of options. A sensor breakout is built into the device – smart electronics evaluates the weight of clothes, the degree of contamination, the amount of water needed for washing, and so on. Operating with dozens of input, the microprocessor optimally exposes the settings.
Most modern innovations are hidden from the user's eyes, but their advantages are obvious when they are washed. For example, the company Miele created a drum with a honeycomb structure. Due to the unique design, a thin water-soap film is formed on its surface. The linen slides along it and does not cling to the walls – this is how the wear of fabrics decreases.
The machines themselves are installed weight sensors. They weigh clothes and, depending on the chosen mode, they economically consume water and detergent. For the same purpose, many brand models are equipped with PowerWash 2.0 technology. During washing, a special pump pumps out water with a washing solution from the bottom of the tank and injects it into the center of the drum and the laundry loaded into it.
Special attention is paid to software optimization. Miele is constantly improving the algorithms of washing machines. And updating them to a user is no more difficult than downloading another firmware onto a smartphone. For example, in Europe, a mobile application is already functioning for remote control of some models of Miele devices. Soon it will be available in the Russian market.
Surprisingly, for more than 150 years of the existence of washing machines, the principle of their action has not changed much. It is expressed by a simple formula: “water + detergent + mechanical rotation = clean linen”. Everything else is a technological improvement. They, however, significantly improve the quality of washing and allow us not to think about it at all. Why do we need progress?